Letters: ‘My life is undone. My future is undone’

Brian Yazzie

Brian Yazzie

My name is Brian Yazzie. I am a father, son, husband-to-be, and a proud Native American who does not want to spend my last few moments of freedom not making a difference.

I was involved in a DUI accident that ended with a fatality. Unfortunately, involved in my collision was a Chandler, Ariz., police officer. An officer’s life has ended and now two families are being torn apart. I have written so many apologies to so many different people for so many different reasons and yet, I know it’s not enough.

I just hope it’s known that every word I said and every letter I’ve written came from a place inside my heart I was not aware of until I reached for it. Making amends for my mistakes is obviously a priority, but I must also think of myself, my family, my people, and where we go from here. I keep thinking this is where I make a difference. This is I not giving up.

With all the goals I was setting for myself and achieving within the music industry and starting a family with what seemed like a good foundation, to becoming a name and number in one of Arizona’s correctional facilities. How everything you worked hard for, ever had, loved, and look forward to could be gone in a blink of an eye, unintentionally and very unexpected, all because of bad decision-making.

From the first night of the incident, through the whole process, court hearing after court hearing, not knowing what outcome you’re facing and what to expect, and knowing there’s nothing you can do to change it. How your choices are no longer yours to make and before any of this you have to come to terms with understanding and accepting the fact that you have taken someone’s life and knowing that jail and prison life is the only option to get used to.

I know where the youngsters are at in their lives because I’m not that far from being a kid myself. From playing all sports in school, homecomings, proms, graduation parties, and all the peer pressure that goes along with it. The last five to six years I was involved in hosting, promoting, and even performing at shows, concerts, music festivals, county fairs, state fairs, and even having the privilege of having my very own music played on radio stations. Being involved in the music industry, raising my children, holding the woman I love at night, and waking up knowing that my future is in the palm of my hands meant everything to me. Now that life is over. And my future now belongs to the Arizona State Department of Corrections.

I believed that this couldn’t happen to me, I’m smarter than that, I can handle myself, I’m just having fun, I’m young and indestructible.

Unfortunately, for the victims, they will never be able to believe or be any of those things ever again. The person hurt doesn’t necessarily have to be the person you don’t know, it could be the best friend sitting beside you, a little brother or sister, or God forbid, a child of your own.

So the next time you get behind the wheel, or a friend gets behind the wheel while intoxicated, think about how much those people mean to you, because what’s done cannot be undone. It’s a shame that people don’t see the enormity of these five simple words. Let’s focus on that word for a moment, “undone.”

My life is “undone.” My future? Undone.

My ability to marry the woman I love, “undone.” My ability to celebrate my children’s birthdays with them, “undone.” My dream of being involved and making it to the next level in the music industry, “undone.”

And I can’t pray, promise, or undo the one thing that would give me all I ever wanted back – taking the life of Officer David Payne. Not only have I found myself undone, but I’ve undone this man’s future, his family and all the goals and dreams he had or was ever going to have; all undone because of bad decision-making, one time too many.

I could have avoided taking a good man’s life and at the same time destroying mine. I could have avoided the hate, the sorrow, the disappointment, and the loss that I caused his family and my own.

We make decisions every day —  take or don’t take, drink or don’t drink, smoke or don’t smoke, protection or no protection, drive or don’t drive. Letting the consequences bounce around between lucky and unlucky, only one step ahead of disaster and believe me when I say anyone. Anyone can stumble and eventually you will, but just how far and how drastic the consequences, is up to you.

As for Officer David Payne and his family, I will pray that one day you will understand I never meant your son or yourselves any harm and that someday you will find it in your hearts to forgive me. I appreciate your time and concern.

Brian Yazzie
Window Rock, Ariz.

(Editor’s note: Brian Yazzie was sentenced on Dec. 4 to 14 years in prison followed by seven years probation for the 2014 death of Chandler Police Officer David Payne.)

“Buy local, buy Navajo, support your local flea market’

One thing we can all do that will make a huge economic impact this holiday season is to allocate 20 percent to 25 percent of our holiday budget to be spent on the Navajo Nation or with Navajo business people. It pains me to see all the money we spend in border towns that treat indigenous people with contempt, disrespect, and disregard.

However, unfair the economic transfer seems, it is not the border towns fault, nor the greedy businesses that operate in them. The fault is ours as we allow it to persist.

As Navajo people, we refuse to develop our economy and at the same time we are addicted to driving “to town” for a good time or to buy goods. This illogical economic trajectory although normal is not sustainable for the Navajo Nation. Some say there is nothing we can do, but there is something we can do to develop a Navajo economy. Of course this won’t happen in time for Christmas, but we can focus on the long-term now and start spending a portion of our income locally by supporting indigenous business people. Just think if we spend $20 million in border towns during the holidays, and if all of us allocated 25 percent of that towards a Navajo economy, we would be spending $5 million locally on the Navajo Nation or at least among vendors who are from the Navajo Nation.

Moreover, what if that money was spent over and over within the nation this would have a great ripple effect and would be realistic.

Buy local, buy Navajo, and support your local holiday bizarre, craft fair, flea market, and school fundraiser by purchasing Navajo handmade, handcrafted, and homemade goods. Lots of nice gifts are available locally at good prices, so buy your pinons, quilts, aprons, steamed corn, winter squash, Navajo tea, jewelry, crafts, and artwork locally and support a Navajo economy. If we don’t, nobody else will.

Matthew Tafoya
Fort Defiance, Ariz.

Disappointed with prez statements on nonprofits

I was disappointed to read about President Russell Begaye’s statements in the lack of support for financial grants to a nonprofit organization, St. Michaels Association for Special Education.

For the record, it should be noted that there are numerous nonprofits operating on the Navajo Reservation or affiliated with the Navajo Nation. At the top of the list is the Navajo Nation. This is a government organization that has a nonprofit status.

Most self-governance 638 agreements for Indian Health Services such as Ganado, Tuba City, Winslow, and Utah have declared nonprofit status. Numerous schools that have declared themselves as nonprofit status receive some form of funding from the Navajo Nation, state and/or federal funding and other sources of foundation funding.

I disagree with President Begaye and I strongly believe that tribal funds should be provided to St. Michaels Association for Special Education. This is a nonprofit organization established by the work of the late Sister Maryjane, who provided thousands of services for our Navajo families. Early 1970s, these families had no place to go to receive the special needs therapy and educational services that these students needed. The program is one that must be continued for our Navajo families and students. These are our Navajo children, our Navajo families.

St. Michaels Association for Special Education is located on the reservation providing much needed services for the whole Navajo Reservation, not hundreds of miles away from the reservation, in some far away city or town.

I encourage the Navajo Nation Council and committee to support and approve the request for St. Michaels Association for Special Education. I encourage our Navajo people to talk and write to their Council delegates and chapter leaders.

Merlee Arviso
Albuquerque, N.M.

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Categories: Letters, Opinion
Tags: Brian Yazzie, dui